Sunday, April 25, 2010

eurorail passes

Eurorail passes are amazing Europe-wide train passes that allow you to be denied a seat on all European rail lines.1

Most rail passes, or even "tickets", permit you a seat on a particular train or set of trains, but the Eurorail pass gives you the comfort and assurance that there is absolutely no way you will catch that essential train to Madrid, no matter how many times you attempt to catch it, and no matter how many cities you attempt to catch it from.2

On those days that volcanoes don't stop you from reaching mainland Europe, the Eurorail pass allows you to stand in line in a variety of countries and cities; instead of using those handy queue-begone electronic ticket machines, you are granted the pleasure of waiting for an actual attendant. Sometimes this blessed experience will involve the Frenchman in front of you suddenly, without warning, spinning around and shouting at you accusingly in French, then leaving for another line.3

Once at the front of said line, you have the joy of finding an attendant who can speak to a poor sap in English. Strikingly, however, English is surprisingly well spoken by our brethren across the seas; in particular, the word "no" appears to be in vogue.

For example, most conversations proceed along the following lines:

Me: Are there available seats on a train to Spain?

Attendant: No

Me: Bayonne?

Attendant: No

Me: Gruyère?

Attendant: No

Me: Bordeaux?

Attendant: No

Me: Are there seats to anywhere in France?

Attendant: No

Me: Is this pass not worth the paper it's printed on?

I think you get the idea. This magic word magically spans cultures and languages, as well as countries and train companies.

Utilizing these counter agents, however, gives you a dramatic insight into how customer service works in a variety of cultures.

In France, for example, there is usually one dude at the counter serving several hundred people, with two or three apathetic-looking managers sitting directly behind him menacingly watching you.

Spain has a similar setup, except the managers are standing and walk around on occasion, often to back rooms, from whence appear other managers who pace around the back and look generally unhelpful.

Italy is similar to Spain; however, every twenty seconds or so the managers or employee will suddenly start screaming at each other (or a customer) in sing-songy shouts.4

On those glorious occasions when you do manage to finagle your way onto a train using your ever-so-useful rail pass, I wish you luck in attempting to find a seat. In the event you do enjoy standing for long periods of time, let me recommend to you the rail routes from Tours to Poitiers, or Bordeaux to Bayonne, or Frankfurt to Cologne. Each of these routes present the perfect amount of standing to induce severe distress with one's life, and cause serious reflections as to how one got one's self into one's situation, and why one didn't go straight to Switzerland or some other non-strike-stricken nation.

In summary, the Eurorail pass is an excellent way to travel to cities nobody else wants to go to at times and in ways that nobody else wants to travel. Therefore, it's probably best suited for individuals who prefer experiences like flying standby during the holiday season, while getting simultaneously slapped with an angry tuna. Or maybe for that special person in your life who likes watching mud dry while buried in an anthill during the rainy season in the Congo.

Should you find yourself with one (a pass, that is, not an anthill), and arrive at Tours in one in the morning (having nowhere else to go), I have but two things to say to you:

  • The dude at the Holiday Inn is willing to go down to €90. I think you can talk him down further.
  • May God have mercy on your soul.

1. To be fair, that's not always true. Sometimes it takes a cataclysmic event, like, say, a volcano, to force everyone in Europe to decide they need to travel THIS WEEKEND, and make a run on train tickets and "reservations", thereby negating the benefit of your "global" train pass.
2. Paris, Tours, Bordeaux, Irún, San Sebastian, just to name a random set of a hypothetical few. I might also mention an overnight bus I may have been forced to take from Northern Spain to eventually make it to Madrid, to be allowed the privilege of spending five hours there, but that is another subject and post entirely.
3. I am not making this up. He yelled at me, motioned frantically, got the attention of a station attendant, and then he moved along. That's one nice thing about the French; they get over things quickly.
4. I'm pretty certain Italian was invented to scream at people. It's a good angry language. I don't think I managed to go anywhere in Italy without hearing people yelling.5 I was also not able to go anywhere in Italy without being offered an "umbrelly" for sale.
5. This includes a very late night on a train somewhere north of Rome when I had the audacity to pull down bed 56 when my ticket indicated bed 56. Apparently, after getting a very large mustachioed attendant screaming at me for several melodious minutes, I was supposed to bed down in bed 54, not assume I was to bed down in the area indicated by my ticket. My Italian is shaky, so I could be wrong.6
6. I might here add that getting berated in a foreign language while alone in a night train traveling through a foreign land while about to sleep two feet away from an older disheveled man who bears no small resemblance to a pedophile arrested in San Jose last year is slightly disconcerting on a multitude of levels.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

running

One of the most amazing things about the human body is how perfectly it has evolved to fit inside of automobiles. Note how well our backs have formed to fit into the leather cup of the bucket seat. Admire how we grew to just the right length to be able to use the pedals. Marvel at how most individuals are born with right hand dominance, allowing the mastery of the clutch to sublime levels.

Nevertheless, there is a large set of people who refuse to accept this evidence, and continue to use that heathen mode of transportation known as running. Of their misguidedness there can be little doubt, but let us today discuss the elements of running.

The first element of running one must master is the wardrobe. This holds the key to all other aspects of the run.

Men:

It is essential that you find and wear as short of shorts as possible. We love seeing your legs. In fact, one of my favorite experiences in life involves prying my eyes open at the crack of dawn to the sounds of birds chirping, realizing the birds are chirping because I'm seriously late to work, then exiting my home with some haste, still bleary eyed, to be confronted by your wobbly bleached hairy fish stick legs traipsing away in front of me. Words cannot describe the pleasant feelings I hold towards your exhibitionism.

You can only enhance these warm fuzzies by removing your shirt and further displaying your own warm fuzzies. This is not puke-worthy disgusting.

Women:

No amount of torture will ever convince me to speak on the subject of what you should wear in any circumstance, in any time, ever ever ever. Ever. Wear what you will. However, I do wish to state here, emphatically, for the record, to my friend who I happened across while wearing a sports bra1, you just happened to be in my line of sight; I was not intentionally looking in that particular direction, as those of a more crass disposition would suggest. I just wanted to get that out there.

Once you have donned your attire for the run, please do your best to dissuade us from running by contorting your face to appear as though you are passing through the most severe of miseries.2

Even if you neglect this step, please recall that when you are running you look your absolute worst. An individual cannot look uglier than they do while running. This is important to understand, and I would like to plead with any of my time-traveling posterity to impart this morsel of wisdom to the Young Chris Perry, before he goes out planning his running routes such that they pass by the houses of attractive women. This strategy is doomed to failure. Please, spare him.

Once you have a handle on what you are doing, you are permitted to run with a friend. However, under no circumstances are you, while a beginner, allowed to run with a friend.

Let us recall with horror the day I first went running with an individual who was not my mother.3 We cheerfully met up one morning, certain to take on the new world of running. Both of us were decently fit, and more than capable of walking a few feet from the car to the door. We ran. And ran. The muscles began to ache. We became short of breath. Our faces contorted into that look of pain so familiar to those of us who drive by joggers. But we were diligent. We pressed onward. We survived.

After somewhere near a half hour of running, we managed to complete our loop. Joy! Triumph! Elation! Proud at our achievement at such a feat of stretch, we got into the car to drive over our route to see how many dozens of miles we covered.

I shall not discuss the exact bearing on the odometer when we returned from our (pathetically short) drive, but let the record show that the number eight was on its descent from the tenths marker.

So, in the period of a half hour, we managed nine tenths of a mile, which puts our speed somewhere between excited tortoise and my boss after a dozen krispy kremes.4

We looked at each other, and silently swore to never speak of this event again.5

When you begin to run, you have the endurance of a two-legged giraffe. Don't let anyone see you like that. Run by yourself in the dark with a sack over your head. This is the only way to maintain your dignity.6

1. To be clear: she was wearing it. I could not think of a smoother way to construct the sentence. My fear of accidentally writing that I wore a sports bra is why I did not actually major in English, as I once thought to.
2. If you find yourself on the verge of passing out while running, it's probably time to stop, wouldn't you say? That's why I never run, and my coronary triple bypass surgeon thanks me for it.
3. And let us refrain from recalling who was more physically fit between me and my post-eight-children mother.
4. While you consider firing me for publicly referencing that experience, let me just remind you how rarely I refer to you as boss, and ask you to note the tone of kindness and sincerity with which I have used that term of endearment on this occasion.
5. At least, that's what I swore. And let this be a lesson to you: make me swear unsilently, or I shall let it out someday. Sorry. At least I kept you anonymous.
6. I want to congratulate myself for not referencing the individual in my former life who propelled, um, his or herself (keeping with the anonymity bit here) forward by slapping the ground as hard as possible with what, by the sound of it, could only be described as clown shoes. I'm sorry. You probably hate me for bringing that up. I almost made it the full post!

Monday, April 5, 2010

classical guitar

Classical guitar is the best and easiest way to attract women (and men). As a long-time practitioner of the avoidance of the practice of classical guitar, I have deep insight into how the underworld of classical guitar looks.

First, when training classical guitarists, the key is to make the learner appear as sissified as possible, as correct form can only be achieved by repeated beatings by belligerent peers. Ways in which this can be achieved include mandating the use of a foot stool, instructing learners to wear a toe-less sock over their elbow, and the utterly-inhumane practice of coercing boys in middle school to file their nails.

These elements are employed with heartless efficiency. While to the teacher, the protective sock is guarding the arm of the boy against any of the unsightly marks that could be left by the edge of the guitar, to the boy, the unsightly sock has just branded him free game, and will inevitably result in the loss of any and all lunch money he may have carried.

Furthermore, wonderfully-manicured nails are the hallmark of beautiful tone and sound for classical guitarists, and teachers will encourage their students to grow their own nails out to unsightly lengths, and prune them with a variety of elements found only in the beauty section of a store, well beyond the no man's land that is the shampoo aisle. A mere entrance into this territory is grounds for a good old fashioned lockering, not to mention what is to be done to the poor sap who actually goes through with it and files his nails.

Luckily, while these sorts of behaviors can produce some discomfort in the early ages, the determined individual will soon find their sufferings rewarded when the women gather round like the doves of Delaware, anxiously awaiting a mere morsel of the meticulously magicked melody.

Unluckily, if you specialize in the observance of a continual guitar-practicing sabbath, wherein no notes are ever played by your filed nails while your arm rests comfortably within its sock guard, and your foot stands proudly on the footrest, you experience all of the awkwardness, while remaining resolutely at the edge of the periphery of the greatness that classical guitar.

The consolation prize to said individuals is the amazing experience of having a guitar teacher showing up to one lesson smelling oddly smokey, and yet intoxicatingly sweet at the same time. As the smoke slowly dulls your senses, he reveals a liter of oil, and begins to pour said oil gleefully over the fingerboard of your guitar, all while shouting "WOOOOOOO-EEEEEEE, LOOKEE HOW THIRTY HE IS!"

I believe that was our last lesson. And the fingerboard is still stained.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

april fools' day

In a holiday schedule packed with celebrations for Lincoln, Washington, Independence, and a variety of religious and animalian icons, April Fools' Day brings a welcome break from such subjects, and unabashedly celebrates gullibility.

Some of us are excited for the chance to catch our friends with some awkward lie, and some of us live in daily fear of forgetting of the existence of such a day, and looking like an idiot when telling their coworkers that Google has announced a new scheme wherein they will print and send you all of your emails.

This can produce no small amount of awkwardness.

Luckily, the awkwardness isn't restricted solely to the workplace. For reasons known only to themselves, about half of the world's single population will proclaim they are engaged today.

This is funny if you are the single person, because you know you are not engaged. This is confusing to your friends, because just last month (and the month before that) you couldn't get a date. It's a time of great joy and excitement for your distant friends, who know not that you can't get a date, and they send in their laudatory notes with great praise, shamelessly expunging their feelings at the satisfaction that finally you managed to get engaged.

This is an excellent strategy for pruning friends, when the inevitable truth hits.

Not that I would blame them for believing you; I, myself, was duped by my older sister, when she proclaimed she was engaged some years ago. This was funny and not at all strangely confusing to her, because obviously she wasn't engaged to the man she had been dating for several months, and who eventually became her husband, and father of her five children. Thanks.

Having fallen for their ruse, I swore to never again fall prey to the terror that is being the gullible one.

Let us take a moment to mourn the April Fools' Day some years later when my younger sister found herself in the same situation, and did the same thing, and I, naturally, the epitome of unbridled gullibility that I am, responded the exact same way.

I blame this day for intermingling my deep unsettling fear of looking stupid1 with my fear of commitment.

This April Fools', give the gift of awkwardness.

1. I am currently reeling from having, in a religious talk, tried to draw a parallel between seeing women in the gym with recognizing the spirit. I'm having a hard time deciding if it's even feasible to come up with an analogy capable of making me look more supremely ridiculous. On the plus side, this only convinces me to seek a wife, as surely she can alert me to those ideas I have that are mind-numbingly stupid.